Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Dark

7:30 am here in Olympia and the sky is just beginning to lighten. Civil twilight has begun and the sun will soon rise for its eight and a half hour run from east to west. And then it will be dark again for the next fifteen and a half hours.

Something about the dark here feels profound to me, that it's a dark unlike any I've experienced before. That feeling is pretty amazing since I spent five years looking at the deep black skies above the Navajo Nation when I lived in Window Rock, Arizona. I find it hard to imagine any dark could compete with that dark and certainly a not in a city with all of its light.

And yet the dark in Olympia does compete. It's a different kind of dark but no less encompassing. In Window Rock I could look into that deep sky and feel myself a part of the universe, the vast land on which I stood was encompassed by an even more vast cosmos. In Olympia the dark seems to descend on the entire community, holding us all in its grip. Either way I see myself as part and parcel of the natural cycles that govern this planet and the universe. I am at once liberated, humbled and aware.

If this morning's Olympia sky was as clear as those Window Rock skies, I would have seen Saturn and Mars high in the west and south. Yesterday I might have seen the last slim waning crescent of the moon as it slips toward New. The evening sky here features Jupiter very bright and well up in the east and an even brighter Venus perched above the western horizon. Trees are all bare now so those moments of clear sky are wonderfully visible this time of year.

Maybe it's the amateur astronomer in me that attracts me to the dark. Or my preference for for staying out of sight. Whatever the attraction, these long nights are always welcome on my calendar.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Always a Sobering Holiday

For the past four decades my Christmas holiday has always been shadowed by Vietnam. Thoughts of Vietnam are still very much part of this year's holiday. But after last year's return to Vietnam, the vibe is different. Now I have other holiday memories of Vietnam that contend with those long ago memories.

Still, in a world were war is a part of everyday life for many, I can never escape thoughts of war at this supposed time of peace. I'm just too hard-wired not to pay attention. And if I pay attention then I must begin to think of an alternative.

Like the one these soldiers created.

As told by John McCutcheon.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

In the Rearview Mirror

The last convoy of American forces exited Iraq last night. No doubt troopers are happy to be crossing that international border. The American War in Iraq is over.

But neither war or America will be absent from Iraq. War will continue among Iraqis living in one of the world's most dangerous places. Thousands of US contractors working out of the world's largest embassy will project as much influence as our national treasury can buy. The contractor formerly known as Blackwater has changed its name yet again to reflect the new dawn in Iraq. The beat most certainly goes on.

But for now, Americans can at least find some solace in the ceremonies marking the change of command and an orderly withdrawal. That much, at least, is over. No desperate rooftop helicopter evacuation (*).

With that thought in mind and fully mindful of the America's continued presence in Iraq I can only say,


Andrew Bacevich offers a similar conclusion in somewhat more temperate language supported with informed observations and clear thought. I strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

But it also helps to scream.


(*) Yet.

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Batting Order

Environmentalists have always had an agenda to put nature above man.
Donna Holt, leader of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty

As an environmentalist I don't have that agenda. I do recognize, unlike Ms. Holt, that man is not above nature. We are part and parcel of nature and subject to its forces. Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and a host of other natural disasters are plenty of evidence that Nature Bats Last.

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